Get The Most from a Photo Shoot


Was I happy, or unhappy, with how I looked on this day? It doesn’t matter – I had a great time at this shoot, and it showed. The results: a pretty photo of Sadie von Scrumptious, burlesque emcee. Courtesy of Ataahua Pinups.

Do you want to have good pictures taken, beautiful pictures, but…you’re waiting? Waiting for your hair to grow out, for that 5-or-10 kilo weight loss, or to mysteriously turn into Dita von Teese overnight? Why not just do it? Make 2013 the year you get in front of the camera!

Let’s revisit the weight loss one because I can’t tell you how many times that has been cited as a barrier. Stop postponing your life until you lose weight, says fitness blogger and yoga teacher Amber, and how right she is. She conveninently linked to this post on How To Not Hate Being Photographed, too.

There are four factors that make it possible to capture the best possible images of you. You outsource one of them when you sign up for a photo session and you can achieve the remaining three.

  • Professional photography lighting. Photographers use light photons to blast your features into luminescent perfection.
  • Being healthy. Well rested, hydrated, glowing from fruit and vegetables and activity. You know the drill.
  • Being well groomed. Your efforts to be polished will pay off.
  • Being happy. Your emotional state, more than anything, shines through in photographs.
"We make your cellphone work!"

A professional headshot, courtesy of Matt Walsh.

What To Wear

  • Your outfit should fit, or be a little roomy. Leave the garments-you-hope-to-fit-into-soon at home.
  • For a portrait/head shot, wear a plain top or a collared shirt in a jewel tone or strong neutral. Matching your eye color is always safe. A feature necklace or earrings are also good. Avoid wearing black, white, small patterns, or shiny fabric.
  • For a pinup/burlesque/boudoir shoot, expect that your whole body will be photographed and that you must provide your entire outfit, down to long gloves and hair clips. Some studios provide props and costuming – find this out before the shoot.
  • If a studio is providing extensive costuming for a pin-up shoot, I still like to bring the following: “dark” lingerie set with stockings and shoes and gloves; “light” lingerie set with stockings and shoes and gloves; a robe; at least one complete outfit I want photographed. The two lingerie sets are a useful foundation for other corsets, robes, or dresses.
  • If you are bringing full outfits, set up the outfits before hand. Try them on, test them in a mirror, and if required iron/press them.  More than 4 outfits in a session devoted to you will make the photographer’s head hurt. So, keep it to 4 outfits or fewer.
  • If you are dubious about your arms at all, feel free to cover them up. Sleeves, wraps, jackets, feather boas, lace shawls, long gloves. Unhappy with your abdomen? Wear corsets, girdles, or “shapewear” – undergarments like the Spanx sausage cases (I prefer the firmer Nancy Ganz line myself).
It's a darn shame my adorable black tilt hat doesn't show against the black background.

Professional eye makeup makes my eyes huge, and the ringlet hairpiece looks all right. But where’s the top of my head? It’s my own fault for choosing a black tilt hat doesn’t show against the black background. Practice session with Toya Heatley.

Physical Preparation/Grooming

  • Do your nails! Male, female “not proud” of your hands and feet, the camera accepts no excuses. Maximize your nail attractiveness, from a simple trim/buff/hand creaming to a manicure and pedicure supreme.
  • Do you dye your hair? Retint during the week before the shoot. Hair roots show and are challenging to Photoshop.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. Not just for the sake of beauty sleep – posing is exhausting.
  • Drink lots of water the night before the shoot, moisturize lavishly, and avoid alcohol.
  • Shave. Especially your armpits. Body hair is, again, difficult to Photoshop.
  • If you are going to be nude at the shoot, when you get up that day, bathe/shower, shave everything that’s getting shaved, then put on loose outer garments, going commando underneath. This prevents your underwear, especially your bra, “marking” your body with pressure lines.
  • Clean & combed hair, please. “But my hair needs to be dirty for retro styling!” Then, before styling, hit your hair up with dry shampoo, which removes greasiness while making your hair behave for backcombing, rolling, and the like.
  • If you want your hair to be longer, shorter, or otherwise different, wigs or hairpieces can help.
  • Should you get your makeup done professionally? More expensive shoots may include this as part of the service. If you are not used to doing your own makeup, or you want a very dramatic look, I recommend this. Schedule makeup in the AM, the shoot in the PM, and do something fun that evening so your made-up face gets an outing.
  • Personally, I eat low-carb, lower-fat food the day before a shoot. I eat a light breakfast. And then after the shoot I fall face down into a platter of Thai food or the like. Amusingly, food and drink during shoots seems to be in the same amnesty zone as diet drinks.

Photo Shoot Etiquette

  • Ask for what you want well in advance, and be clear about costs. Not only does this help reduce post-production angst, but it ensures that you get the shoot you want. For burlesque or other performance promotion photos, a white background is helpful so that designers can edit out the background and add you to posters. Black backgrounds can create striking portraits, but any black accessories, or even brunette hair, gets lost.
  • Show up on time, with your outfits organized, your hair done or ready to do, and your face either made up or ready to be made up.
  • If a photographer prefers to be professional and distant, let them. They don’t have to be your best friend to be talented and take good pictures of you.
  • Expect your photos within 1 – 2 weeks.
  • If the photographer is a hobbyist friend who isn’t charging you – offer to buy lunch, contribute to transport or processing costs, or give a koha towards equipment. I remember buying film for somebody back in the day. Remember film?
This photo illustrates several posing and outfit tactics.

This photo illustrates several posing/dressing tactics. My3/4 body turn is slimming. My outstretched arm is slimmer-looking than my un-photoshopped bent arm, and my manicured nails show up in the picture. The dark background is an excellent contrast for a white dress – one reason that brides wear white still. On this sunny day, the photographer has posed me in the shade. Shady light flatters the skin, and I’m not squinting against the light. Photo courtesy of Digitalpix and their “Trash the Dress” photography workshop.


Posing is vital! Working with the photographer on posing makes the most of how you look.

  • Inside Out Style Blog has great posing tips, as does Betty Bombshell’s Plain Jane to Pinup Queen book, as does Photography Awesomesauce.
  • A 3/4 headshot helps obscure any facial assymetry, and a 3/4 body turn is slimming.
  • Being slightly below the photographer/having the photographer shoot from above is also slimming.
  • Practicing your poses in a full-length mirror (or a hand mirror for face shots) is dorky, but it works.
  • Try to be phyiscally relaxed and express happiness. Play with the posing – ham it up – have some fun. When I’ve been stiff in front of a camera, a good tactic has been to have a friend stand beside the photographer and banter with me.

If You Have Been Requested/Hired As A Model

    • Ask, tactfully, why  you? Why were you requested? Experience? A particular “look”? Your sizeable wardrobe? Your body modifications, or lack thereof? It’s always good to know.
    • Make yourself a good model by working with the photographer’s reasonable requests. Myself, I have avoided sunlight, grown and manicured my nails, made myself up with a specific “look”, and brought along clothes for said specific look.
    • Be firm about your boundaries. If you’re not comfortable with the picture, or the vibe of the shoot, say no and be prepared to walk. I once arrived at a shoot, took a look around, felt my hackles rise, and walked without even putting my bag down. It was a perfectly clean city apartment, with a colorless mild-mannered male photographer, and yet something just wasn’t right. I’m glad I didn’t find out what.
    • If you were polite and timely and  prepared – and don’t get asked for again – you didn’t do anything wrong. Some photographers like to work with lots of different models, capturing many fresh looks. Others may feel they didn’t have chemistry with you. Let it go and move on.
Is it I? Come reply! Mirror, mirror, tell me truly!

A glimpse of a flattering pinup shot by Ataahua Pinups.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

  • You need to cancel – For me, cancellation reasons have included being sick and being grief-stricken. (I find that my emotional state is reflected in photographs – whether I want it to be or not.) Let the photographer know ASAP.
  • You think you look awful in test shots – Don’t freak out, and don’t get mad at the photographer. Try one of your other outfits, more makeup, a new angle, even a different backdrop. Shots often improve as a shoot progresses.
  • You and the photographer don’t click – It’s happened to me. I show up, they show up, even after giving it some time, the magic didn’t happen. If everyone is present, correct, and professional, at least you can speak up and ask for what you want.
  • An idea or outfit doesn’t work – At one of my shoots, an emcee costume that had received lots of compliments in real life turned out to be a difficult dud on camera. The correct attitude is to shrug and say “Moving on!” I’d like to praise the photographer in this instance for speaking up and saying “That’s not working” – when the photographer and you aren’t clicking, they may not say anything.
  • Post-production drama – Both I and others have been unhappy with shoot results. I myself once went for professional headshots with a well-known local photographer, found him dull and absent during the session, and sure enough, the resulting shots looked like he’d phoned it in. Irritating! Another time, a friend of mine wasn’t happy with the severely Photoshopped results of her shoot. She would have preferred more images from the shoot that represented what she saw as her real self.

The more you work with a photographer, the more the photographer works with you.

Wellington Area Photographers

For those of us in the Wellington area, this list has grown over the past year! Another reason why there’s never been a better time to get some pictures taken.

  • D-Pix/Ataahua Pinups – Teriffic and fun portraits, wedding photography, and pin-up shots. And Ever So Scrumptious blog readers can have a PINUP SHOOT SPECIAL! Use the code SCRUMPTIOUS when you book a pinup shoot and get it at half price – $120 instead of $250. It doesn’t get any better than this!!!
  • Foto Graffito – More sophisticated black and white work. Great at capturing expression, I especially recommend him for photographing men.
  • Jules Townsend – Portraits to pin-ups to wedding photography. Fresh liveliness and great sense of color.
  • A La Mode  -High-end Wellington photography with studio. Want to look like you should be in Italian Vogue? You can, starting at about $500 (note the print costs here).
  • Kardan Photography – More edgy, sophisticated black and white work. Again, higher prices. In Wellington, also visits Auckland.
  • Miss T Pin-Ups, Auckland – Provides “full service” with makeup, hair styling, costuming, and extensive Photoshopping. Shoots are often staged at especially lovely locations, too. A premium shoot, priced appropriately. Auckland based but visits Hamilton and Wellington.

Serious about pin-up modeling? That’s a whole other story! As a starting point, if you want pin-up or figure modeling opportunities, contact a local camera club.  Hutt Camera Club uses models. For long-term or seriously-earning-money modeling, post on Model Mayhem.


Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.